INTER-RAIL FOR IDIOTS

by Frankie Fraser

8. Bad Karma

 
The streets of Zurich in the summer stay busy until late after dark and here one can easily procure an over-priced drink or an STD. If one has the money. It’s warm so I consider sleeping out in the park, but I need a place to stay without waking up being robbed or murdered, so I’m hopeful that the Hotel Gregory fits the bill. It’s cheap (for Zurich!), located in the local red-light district, and there’s (bad) karaoke downstairs ALL NIGHT.
    I first try the hotel just up the road, but it’s full and the owner tries to direct me to the more expensive business hotels across the intersection. He’s standing in the street smoking a cigarette, like everyone here also seems to be at 1AM, for some reason. But maybe they’re just blowing off steam after banking all day?
    The Swiss, for all their obsession with chronometers and other precision instruments, seem to be absolutely terrible at giving directions. I already know there’s a room free at the Gregory, because I’ve checked online using my trusty Sammie. So I ignore this man and keep on going. A prostitute teeters towards me on her high heels gurning and asks in perfect English if I have somewhere to go. I check into my hotel room (alone), lock the door and don’t come down for nine hours. Then I go check out.


Apparently I loved Zurich so much I didn't take any photos of it, but here's a picture I drew

 

I may have mentioned that Zurich is expensive. I need to use wifi, so I find a Starbucks (yes, I have come all the way to Switzerland to go to Starbucks!). I overhear two American girls talking about how their coffee and muffins cost them $30 each.
    I am not so desperate - I actually had breakfast in the Australian backpacker place in the red light, but even that cost me around 10 Francs for a croissant and cappuccino. The conversion factor is about 1 Swiss Franc = about 1 Euro, at the time of writing, which sort of makes you wonder why they bother (I suppose the Swiss are worried about the Euro tanking). Fortunately the Australian behind the counter was a very nice man and accepted the Euro-shrapnel I had left as payment - even sending over some cool water in a glass jug, which I’m sure I didn’t ask for. Perhaps he was admiring the Hendrix and Pink Floyd records under my arm, that had already been up a mountain in Italy with me.
    I keep thinking about how I’ve come so far, and how a film-maker would probably edit the interesting things that have happened  so far into around sixty seconds of film. Perhaps if I were a skilled writer I would edit it into a shorter story? I realise its probable I’m not even the main protagonist in my own movie – for one thing, people like films about people, and I don’t even really like people. This is going to sound sort of sociopathic but I generally have little interest in them at all unless they’re exceptional in some way. So pretty much the only things I’ve thought about on my journey so far have been buildings and food – with a little bit reserved for the tiny part of my brain that thinks about geography and train departure times.
    I realise that I’m kind of an asshole.
    I decide I’ll go to Munich to see the Deutsche Museum, but the overnight train to Amsterdam on Thursday is booked up – which means a seven hour journey back the next day if I want to spend a Saturday night there before it’s time to go home.
    Herman Hesse’s old house is around here, just over the border in Gaienhof, and it’s now a sort of museum of the man, but you have to make a reservation to visit. I also consider going home via the university town of Gottingen to Detmold, where I’ve heard the museum is home to a very un-usual 6,500 year old mummified baby with red hair and an elongated skull - but it’s a long way to go just to view something that might not even be there. The Detmold museum loan the child out to other places from time to time, so call ahead if you want to see it. If you want to know what it looks like, imagine a large brown humanoid baked potato. It was found in Bolivia, where such things are apparently not uncommon (some people who know think it’s an early, precursor species of human being. Others say extra-terrestrial).
    I also planned to visit my German friend Ines in Hamburg, but she emails to tell me she has lost her job in Media and will have to use this weekend to look for a new one. And, I am ashamed to say, all I can think of is how ‘German.’ of her this is. I haven’t spoken to anyone for four days, and already I am beginning to feel like an outcast from society.
    From Hamburg it’s not too far to go and visit Peenemunde, on the far north eastern coastline of Germany, from which the V2 were launched at England during the Second World War. You can still see a test rig there that was supposedly designed for testing rocket motors, UFOs, or other unidentified occult projects depending on who you believe. All of which brings me on to our next destination... Bavaria.


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